July 23, 2017

The One Where Monica Crossed The Rainbow Bridge

Yesterday was tough, I'm not going to lie.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we learned just last week that Monica (the long-haired tortoiseshell kitty we adopted last year) had late stage liver cancer. I'm still feeling guilty that I didn't recognize any symptoms before, but they were so subtle and they crept up so quickly.

I noticed that she was getting less and less energetic, and she was sleeping more than usual. But I wasn't alarmed by that at all. She was still eating and drinking, and she looked fine. Last week, I noticed that her belly was bulging out a little. I thought it may have been my imagination, but I made sure to pay more attention to it. (Because her belly was big, I didn't even notice how skinny the rest of her had gotten).

I saw her in the litter box one day and she was straining kind of hard to poop, so then I just assumed that she may have a little constipation. I made a couple of small changes to her diet. Then on Tuesday or Wednesday last week, I noticed that her stomach had gotten even bigger and it was firm when I touched it. I knew that was bad.

In retrospect, I realize there were other symptoms I missed: she stopped grooming herself, so I was having to brush her more often; she wasn't nearly as cuddly as she used to be, and didn't always come when I called her; she stopped eating her favorite treats; and when I cleaned out the litter box daily, there was less in it than usual (with three cats, it's hard to tell who is having issues).

Anyway, when I noticed the distended abdomen, I made sure to get her into the vet right away. I called at 9:00, and they told me I could come right in--it was great! But I knew the outcome wasn't going to be good, and I even warned the kids that Monica may be nearing the end of her life. I didn't want it to be a huge shock to them.

Just as I suspected, she was in organ failure--her liver had a tumor, and her abdomen was full of fluid. The vet drained some of the fluid to make her a little more comfortable, but she said that Monica likely would pass away within a week. It was clear that Monica was uncomfortable, and I told the vet that I'd like to choose euthanasia instead of letting her suffer at home (and having my kids watch her go through that).

I made an appointment for Monday, and I brought her home. We spoiled her rotten--giving her all the wet food she wanted (she loved canned food!) and we carried her here and there so she wouldn't have to painfully walk around. We lifted her onto her favorite perch on the cat tree, and we petted her almost non-stop. Eli took her outside several times, too. When we adopted her, we agreed that she would be a strictly indoor cat, and we always adhered to that; but I wanted her to feel the grass and spend some time in the sunshine. Eli loved spending time with her outside, and she seemed very happy out there as well.

The one thing that was reassuring to me over the last few days was that she was still purring when we would pet her. She had the loudest purr of any cat I'd ever owned, and hearing that purr made me feel better.

Then on Friday, she stopped purring. She wasn't moving around much. When she tried to step into the litter box, she could only get a couple of her paws in. She vomited quite a bit on Friday morning. I knew we couldn't wait through the weekend. I called the vet, and after talking to him, he suggested I come in either right away or on Saturday morning.

Noah and Eli wanted to wait until Saturday, so we spent one last night with her. I made sure to give her as much attention as possible. She slept on my stomach, just like she used to a few months ago.

We had to decide if we wanted her cremated or to bring her home. The cost of cremation and taking her ashes home would be $550! So we had to choose between a group cremation or to bring her body home and bury her. The kids wanted to bring her home and bury her by a tree in our back yard.

Jerry worked nights on Friday, so he was sleeping Saturday morning, and I didn't want to make him get up to go to the vet. My friend Andrea offered to take me to the vet with Monica so that I wouldn't have to go alone, and I'm grateful for that--Andrea was just the right person I needed with me. I wrapped Monica up in a blanket and we went to the vet. I knew I was doing the right thing, but I just felt so guilty and so sorry for doing it.

I won't go into the details, but it was awful and I cried, and Andrea cried. It was my first time ever having to go through this (other than when I went with Andrea to have her dog put down a couple of months ago--but never with my own pets). The vet assured me that Monica didn't feel any pain, but I just felt so sad that she didn't know what was going on.

Andrea drove me home, and when I walked into the house, the kids weren't in there. Jerry was still sleeping. I walked around calling for the kids; then looked outside, and my heart just fell into pieces. The boys were digging a grave by the tree, and they'd spent the entire time I was gone digging it deep enough.

And before anyone mentions it, yes, I looked up the laws
about burying pets on private property.

I had no idea they were doing this, and it just melted my heart when I saw them. Monica was wrapped in her favorite blanket and inside of a cremation bag, so the kids didn't have to see her. We placed her in the grave, and buried her. Eli kept saying how glad he was that we got to do that. It made him feel much better than cremating her. 

My mom suggested that the kids paint some rocks to place on her grave, so they made a couple of small ones are are working on a big one. 

"Mon" (which is what we called her a lot of the time)

"You were perrrrrfect"
I'm still feeling so sad that she's not here, and it feels so odd to have just two cats. The last time we had only two cats was in 2009. Monica was gorgeous, with the exception of her "resting bitch face", hahaha. She always looked like she was mad about something, but that was just the way she looked.

Monica was also the most attention-hungry cat I've ever been in contact with. She adored being stroked and petted by anyone who was willing. And whenever they would stop petting her, she would simply rub her face against their arms or use her paw to tap their hands until they started petting her again.

She was SO affectionate, in fact, that I was taking an online course to get her (us) certified as a pet therapy team. I thought she would be great to take to nursing homes or group homes--both for the benefit of the patients as well as her need for attention.

Monica would always come to us when we wanted her--all we had to do was click our tongues a certain way, and she would be there in a moment's notice, looking for affection.

Always helping me blog

We only adopted her a year ago, but she was a fantastic addition to our household. And I hope that she enjoyed her time here. This may seem out of place, but I am always stressing how important it is to adopt a pet instead of buying from a breeder or pet store. When buying a puppy or kitten, you have no idea what their personality will be when they grow up. When adopting from a shelter, you can go spend time with the pet, and even bring your current pet(s) and family along to see how they get along.

All of our pets have been adopted from a shelter or taken in as strays, and I don't have a single complaint about any of them. People are always commenting to me about what a good dog Joey is. My cats are extremely social and get along well with people.

When you adopt a pet from a shelter, you are actually saving TWO lives--you are saving the pet that you bring home, but you are also opening space in the shelter for another homeless animal. Monica was about 8 or 9 when we adopted her--far from a kitten--but she was a fantastic pet! And she got to spend her last year in a loving home instead of in a small crate at a shelter.

I will get off my soapbox, but I just wanted to use Monica's death as an opportunity to stress that it's best to adopt, don't shop! (You can check out PetFinder.com to find pets in your area that are looking for homes.) I also want to remind you of a program I mentioned before called Dogs on Deployment. If you don't want to commit to having a dog for its full lifespan, consider fostering a dog that needs a home while its owner (a military member) is on deployment. A lot of dogs have to be surrendered to shelters because their owners are deployed overseas.

Also, my friend Andrea (the one who took me to the vet yesterday) is a foster for a very small local organization called One Last Treat. A man named Joel founded the non-profit, and he takes older dogs out of shelters so that they can spend their last years in a home instead of in a shelter or being euthanized simply due to old age. (I just love the name One Last Treat, don't you?!)

Andrea fosters these dogs for a few weeks until Joel finds a home for them. I know he spends a ton of his own money for this organization, so if you feel like donating to them, here is a link to the donation page. Andrea said they are also in need of collars and leashes (even used ones are appreciated). If you have any extra collars or leashes lying around and would like to donate them to One Last Treat, I know they would be appreciated! Here is the address to send them:

One Last Treat
6227 N. Dixie Hwy
Newport, MI 48166

You can also follow their adventures on Facebook, which is very entertaining (and you will fall in love with the dogs!).

Well, I never meant to get off on such a tangent from Monica. But I'm sure she would be thrilled if even one person was inspired to take an animal out of a shelter. Monica was such a special cat (she could even give me five on command!) and my family already misses her so much. I'm sure Chandler and Paolo were waiting for her and happy to take her in at the Rainbow Bridge :)

Rest peacefully, Mon, my sweet girl. xo


  1. So sorry for your loss!

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  3. So sorry for your loss, but she was a very lucky kitty to have you all!

  4. Noticed your friends episode title:). I'm so sorry for your loss...sounds like she had a great life with you guys and a special last few days.

  5. Aw, I'm so sorry! I'm right on the soapbox with you, too. We recently adopted a dog, and my husband insisted on going to the shelter alone because he knows I would've come home with about 10 dogs. It's so sad to see them in cages!

  6. I am so sorry. RIP Monica <3

  7. I'm so sorry for your loss. What a wonderful way to honor Monica's memory to encourage rescue and adoption, I couldn't agree more with what you are saying about that, thank you!

  8. So sorry for your loss! I know exactly what you and your family are going through as we just lost my 16 yr old Smokey Joe unexpectedly to a tumor on his optic nerve and are left with two cats now as well. I have the guilts for not noticing the signs earlier as well, but I know our fur babies had wonderful lives and I will forever be grateful for the extra time I got to spend spoiling him in his last days, just as you all did with Monica! What a nice way to honor her! May she live forever in your hearts.

  9. *sniff* The kids just put me over the edge. How positively sweet and caring your boys are. {{hugs}} to you all!

  10. So sorry for your loss :( She really seemed like such a sweet kitty! And I'm so glad she found your family to spend the last year of her life with!

    Also, side note, holy cow is Eli your husband's mini me!! Your kids are so grown up!

  11. I know from experience too that the death of a pet is hard. This was such a nice post and cute to see the rocks the boys painted for her.

  12. So sorry for your loss. It's so hard. We lost our Sampson last year, and putting him to sleep was one of the hardest things I've done. Even though he was 14 years old, our lives haven't been the same. I agree about adopting from the shelters, so glad you posted about this!

  13. AnonymousJuly 24, 2017

    I'm so sorry about Monica. I also have pets and live in SE Michigan, and through a friend who runs an animal rescue I recently learned about a vet service that does at-home euthanasia. My cats are healthy so I hope not to have to use it for many years, but I bookmarked their page because the thought of them spending their last moments at home, in familiar surroundings, is comforting. Here's the link in case you ever need it: https://www.lapoflove.com/Locations-Michigan-Southeast

  14. I'm tearing up thinking about my own sweet cat who sounds a lot like Monica.....very affectionate, always following us around and purring nonstop. I never knew how much a cat could get under my skin (he's my first pet) so I can imagine the loss you and your family feel. So glad you got to give her a great final year.

  15. I'm so sorry for your loss. Rest easy, Monica :*(

  16. Goodness, I sobbed through this whole post. I am so sorry for your loss, but what a wonderful reminder to people reading that adoption is always the way to go when it comes to adding pets to your family. We just adopted our third cat from a rescue organization this past weekend, and I love how you said that adoption saves two lives. So true. My heart aches for your loss and that you had to experience the process of euthanasia, but Monica had a wonderful life in your home.

  17. So sorry for the loss of your kitty. Your vet is super expensive. We just had to put our large dog to sleep as she had an inoperable tumor (at her age she would not have woken up) that had gotten huge and started to bleed. We had a nice 3 extra months with her on daily painkillers. I patted her while they euthanized her, and got her ashes back in a beautiful wooden box with her name engraved on a metal plaque attached to it for $240. Anyways, sorry for your loss.

  18. Big hugs to you and your family. Pets are so much more than pets and their loss can be more traumatic than some humans. That was so sweet that your boys dug her grave...what a beautiful last act of love for her.

  19. I'm so sorry for your loss. You have great kids and that is so sweet that they dug her grave. The rocks are a great idea. My father has made garden stones with pets names on them but we never thought of painting stones.

  20. I'm so sorry for your loss. Monica seemed like such a sweet girl. Sounds like you have some great memories of her :) and please keep advocating for shelter animals! It's so important and I love that you spread the word and show people how wonderful rescue pets are!

  21. Oh Katie, I'm so sorry for your and your family's loss. What a beautiful post...it made me cry. You gave Monica such a loving home for the last year of her life and she loved you guys so much. I hope you find tremendous comfort in that. The pic of your boys digging Monica's grave was so sweet...that they cared so much to do that on their own. Such loving kids! Sending hugs to all of you!

  22. Oh Katie, I'm so sorry but you absolutely did the right thing by following your gut instinct...both initially to get her to the vet and by taking her in Saturday. Monica, as well as your other pets past and present, are so lucky to have been adopted by your family. I literally started crying when I saw the pic of your boys digging her grave and the story behind not knowing they were doing it. What special young men. This is the hardest part of owning a pet and have done it myself...I'm dreading the day when I have to go thru it with our dog. Many hugs to your family.

  23. I'm so sorry about Monica, but I'm sure you made the right choice to show her how much she was loved and then release her from her pain. Her story reminded me so much of my own first cat, Electra, who I adopted from the Humane Society when she was about 6 weeks old. She developed kidney disease as she got older, and at 14 years, she finally just wore out from the disease. Just like Monica, she gradually stopped eating (and I also curse myself that I didn't notice it soon enough - she was a grazer and didn't necessarily eat a lot) and then slowed down and couldn't move for herself. I remember carrying her on my lap in the car, which was so weird - she was a very fearful cat and never would have behaved outside of a carrier, except that she was just so tired and in so much pain. I cried like a baby when she was put to sleep... but pets are such a comfort and we couldn't go without. After a few months, we adopted three cat siblings from a local rescue organization. They are now approaching 10 years old themselves - it's hard to believe Electra has been gone so long!

    Thank you for sharing!

  24. Heart melted! Tears for your cute boys! Hugging my own kitty extra tight tonight. So sorry for your loss.

  25. So sorry to read about Monica. Our Ginge crossed the bridge last Wednesday. He'd been going downhill for some time. He's been on thyroid tablets for two and a half years and on phenobarbital to control fits since November. But knowing it's coming doesn't make it any easier. I didn't think I was missing him that much, but when I got to the bit in your report about the boys preparing the grave, I just burst into tears.
    When Ginge's ashes come back they will go into the garden alongside Wes and Dolly. We've marked the site with a plant for each of them: Dolly has a Michaelmas daisy 'Dolly', Wes a weigela 'Black and White' (he was a very smart tuxedo cat) and Ginge will have a heuchera 'Ginger Pop'. Not that we need the plants to remember (as you won't need the stones) but it's nice to have some recognition there.

  26. Noticed your friends episode title:). I'm so sorry for your loss...sounds like she had a great life with you guys and a special last few days.

    ลา ลีกา สเปน

  27. I'm so sorry! It's such a tough decision to make. How sweet of the boys.

    Also, random but I love the new layout / colors!

  28. I'm so sorry about Monica. It's good that you were able to spoil her before her time came and that you buried her at home. We have in the family a 20-year old cat with kidney disease and other health issues (she used to live with me, now she's with my dad who is 76 and with his own health problems). We're doing the best we can to take care of her at the moment, but I am so scared of what will inevitably follow. I worry about her, and about us all going through this, especially my dad who is incredibly attached to her. I've been looking up information on cremation and things like that (it is illegal here to buy a pet at home...)

    Sending hugs to you and your family.

  29. I'm so very sorry for your loss - but I'm so very grateful that she got to spend her last year with you and your family! I volunteer with a no-kill rescue Colony Cats (& dogs) down here in Columbus, OH and am SO glad that you stressed adopting shelter pets vs buying from a breeder. It's so sad how many are killed due to overcrowding every year :( Everyone needs to listen to Bob Barker and SPAY/NEUTER! :)


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